Domenico Scarlatti: Sonatas Vol. 1 (CD)

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Federico Colli

Chandos’ new exclusive collaboration with the recent Salzburg and Leeds competition winner Federico Colli is kicking off with this first volume in a unique Scarlatti series.

Playing on a modern Steinway, the Italian pianist – internationally recognised for his intelligent, imaginative interpretations and impeccable technique – here explores the keyboard sonatas of Scarlatti, taking a fresh approach from a philosophical angle, by grouping the compositions into ‘chapters’ in order to reflect the many contrasts of his life and his contradictory personality.

In personal booklet notes Colli reveals: ‘I conceived a map of a journey into transcendental thought, beyond the works’ phenomenological meaning. Each chapter has a title and the individual sonatas in each chapter refer back to the permeating image of its basic idea.’

This album is an exceptional start to what promises to be an exciting, long-lasting partnership.

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Domenico Scarlatti:

Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K1 in D minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K9 in D minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K19 in F major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K32 in D minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K39 in A major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K69 in F minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K197 in B minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K208 in A major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K234 in G minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K322 in A major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K380 in E major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K396 in D minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K430 in D major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K450 in G minor
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K492 in D major
Scarlatti, D: Keyboard Sonata K525 in F major

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A dazzling young pianist finds beauty in an old master



This interesting disc introduces an impressive young pianist in the music of one of the great keyboard composers. AlthoughDomenico Scarlatti(1685-1757 - an exact contemporary of J. S. Bach) performed on the harpsichord, pianists from Vladimir Horowitz to Mikhail Pletnev have found his music irresistible. We don't know much about Scarlatti's personal life, but I do remember reading that in his later sonatas he dropped his trick of playing with the hands crossed over because he became too fat to manage it. He wrote 555 keyboard sonatas(each lasting around three minutes), so there are plenty to choose from.

Federico Colli, thirty this year, is making a name for himself playing Baroque music on the modern piano (not unlike another Italian pianist, Andrea Bacchetti, who has specialised in Bach). Colli does not play the sonatas in order, but groups them into four "chapters", titled The Power of Illusion; Live Happily; The Return to Order; Enchantment and Prayer. The CD notes contain an airy philosophical reasoning behind this, but in musical terms it works well for contrast of mood. Two of the best-known sonatas are included: KK 380 in E major, "Cortége" (with its galant fanfare figures), and KK 322 in A major. Colli does not romanticise the music or indulge in stylistic anomalies. He seems to have found a perfect balance, fusing expressive devices of the period with the piano's vast dynamic range. Technically, his playing is faultless: his scales and trills are brilliant and even (sample KK 39 in A Major), but the passagework never sounds mechanistic because he is always searching for beauty. And there is much of that: melodic inspiration flows in Scarlatti. How lovely, for instance, is the limpid opening ofKK 69 in F Minor: Chopin would have been proud to have written it. In the "Live Happily" group, Colli generates a truly joyful atmosphere, then finds a touching inwardness in the gentleKK 208 in A major. He does occasionally sing along, but it is very faint (I didn't notice until I listened on headphones), and at least he has a light tuneful tenor, not Gould's grumbling tuneless descant. I look forward eagerly to future volumes in this series.